Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm a Real Jerk!

[There is still time to weigh in on your favorite, shall we say, "speculative fiction." Go here.]

A few housekeeping items....

Thursday Quiz I Winners:

With all answers correct, in order of entering their list:

1. Rebel

2. Jenny!

3. Rex Parker

College Football Result

OSU 24, Utah 7.
Michael 5000's teams: 1 - 0.

I'm a Real Jerk!

After the love-fest that was my "Ten Great Things About Me" post, I have been feeling the need -- as a responsible publisher of this online variety magazine -- to give a more "fair and balanced" picture of myself, michael5000. So, it's time now to give equal time to the dark side. Here's ten reasons why you, as a person of considerable virtue and discretion, shouldn't like me very much.

1. I never remember my parents' birthdays. What kind of jerk doesn't remember his parents' birthdays? After all they've done for me.

2. I don't give money to beggers. I've heard that charity is a virtue, but when someone who doesn't know me asks me for money, it just pisses me off. I don't even like it when you give them money. That encourages them!

3. I am against handicapped parking spaces. Did you even realize there were people as vile as me? Actually, I'm not against handicapped parking spaces per se; I'm against legally mandated handicapped parking spaces. I think it's super if the store wants to set spaces aside. But making it the law seems kind of like making it a legal requirement to spend an hour every day cheering up a senior citizen. It's requiring niceness by penalty of law, and that seems corrupt to me.

4. I am, in my heart of hearts, prejudiced against certain religious beliefs. It's none of my business, and nobody asked me, but anything involving, say, Jesus Christ coming to North America after his crucifixion to help the Native Americans get organized would strike me as pretty ridiculous. But nobody would believe anything like that. Would they?

5. I am, in my heart of hearts, prejudiced against certain political beliefs. Most people, consciously or unconsciously, discover the intellectual insights behind Libertarianism sometime in junior high school. Most people think through their inherent silliness before they graduate from high school.

6. Sometimes I'm a sarcastic bastard. Sometimes I'm a sarcastic bastard to my mom.

7. I don't really care all that much about cultural diversity. I'm kind of supposed to, since I'm a kinda/sorta social worker. But you know what? I could live in a neighborhood with 5000 Euro-descended Presbyterian-raised middle-class folks like myself, or in a neighborhood that represented the whole spectrum of human cultures, and it would be all the same to me. People is people.

8. I judge people, sometimes pretty harshly, for their taste in books, music, and movies. Even though I'm out of high school.

9. I say things for no other reason than to show how smart I am. When I was younger, I was really, really bad about this. Now I am merely pretty bad about it. But I still definitely like the sound of my own voice. I'm so bad I keep a blog.

10. I edited this list so I wouldn't seem as bad as I might have otherwise. I'm so craven that I can't even be completely candid about my negative side in a publically available document that anyone, including my parents and potential employers, can look at.

Disgusted with me now? I probably deserve it.

If anybody wants to make a meme out of this stupid concept, consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Thursday Quiz I

[Voting for sci-fi/fantasy books? 'Cause it's a pretty lonely election. Go here.]

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time for the inaugeral version of

The Thursday Quiz!

The Thursday Quiz is a "Is It or Isn't It" game. From the list of twelve items, your job is to determine whether each IS or ISN'T in the week's category.


1. No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. The Thursday Quiz is a POP quiz.
2. Contest lasts for, like, 24 hours. Or until I get around to my next post. Whatever.
3. Winner is the person who has the most right answers. In the event of a tie, who really cares?
4. Prizes: in the act of playing, you earn the reward you deserve.

Ready? OK, we'll ease into this fiasco with one that will be relatively easy for much of the L&TM5K readership, although brutally difficult for the overseas contingent:

This Week's Category:
U.S. Presidents

1. Samual Adams
2. Chester Arthur
3. James Buchanan
4. Grover Cleveland
5. David Lloyd George
6. Warren Harding
7. Edward Henry Harriman
8. Stephen Harper
9. Benjamin Harrison
10. Andrew Johnson
11. John Montgomery
12. John Tyler

Submit your answers as a comment, of course. Godspeed and good luck.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Inform My Reading List! The Final Episode

[Results for the Non-Fiction Book voting are here.]

Well, what a long, strange trip it's been. I certainly have my reading cut out for me. But first, it's time to wrap things up with just one last category, that of:

Sprawling Multi-Book Science Fiction and Fantasy Epics

Why science fiction and fantasy epics? Well, for one thing the medium of speculative literature offers rich fields of analogy and alternative experience in which to explore the lineaments of human nature, and especially the relationship between human societies and their technologies. Also, because I'm a dork.

Before you get excited, let me point out that I read through Tolkien seven times as a kid and again two years ago, and I'm not ready to go back to that spring yet. So, no Tolkien.

What I had in mind was something like this:

  • LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy (haven't read it since I was a kid)
  • Donaldson's first Thomas Covenant trilogy (haven't read it since college)
  • China Mieville's Perdido Street Station trilogy (haven't read it)
  • What's-her-names Harry Potter septilogy (haven't read it. Is it worth it?)
What do YOU think?

Hit that comment button just one last time, for old time's sake, and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Inform My Reading List! Non-Fiction

As Vida pointed out a few days ago, I can't pick the winners in the non-fiction category by just counting up the votes. Too many nominations, and not enough seconds. But there were three books that garnered more than one vote, and by rights they should be on the list:
  • Jared Diamond, Guns Germs and Steel (Rebel, Chuck, DrSchnell, Karin)
  • Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation (Rebel, DrSchnell)
  • Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (Rebel, Karin)

Beyond that, how to procede? I've decided to choose -- that's right, just choose -- at least one title from each voter (except Brea, whose single nomination I've already read. Sorry!). This goes way over the number of non-fiction books I had planned for, but what is the Inform My Reading List! project about, if not overkill?

Here are the other picks, alphabetically by nominator:

  • austin: Wade Davis, One River
  • chuckdaddy2000: Nathan McCall, Makes Me Want To Holler
  • DrSchnell: Pietra Rivoli, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy
  • fingerstothebone: Eric Hansen, Motoring With Mohammed; Philip Ball, Bright Earth
  • gl.: Janna Levin, How the Universe Got its Spots; V. S. Ramachandran, Phantoms in the Brain
  • Karin: ML Rossi, What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World; and possibly Peter Singer and Jim Mason, The Way We Eat and Why Our Food Choices Matter and/or Campbell & Campbell, The China Study
  • Mrs. 5000: Slavomir Rawicz, The Long Walk
  • Rebel: Robert Wright, The Moral Animal
  • Rex Parker: Matthew Scully, Dominion; Chester Brown, Louis Riel
  • Shanthala: Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent
  • Vida: Robert M. Sapolsky, A Primate's Memoir

There. That ought to keep me busy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Boring Motherlode

[Only one more day to make suggestions for the reading list of non-fiction books!]

I know a lot of you have been thinking, "michael5000 -- we know you've been on vacation. Surely you scored some boring postcards?"

Why yes, yes I did. In a little junkshop in my hometown, Bandon-sur-la-Mer, Mrs. 5000 and I hit a veritable motherlode of extremely boring postcards. We had to do some serious screening to get down to just 11. Here are a few that made the cut.

The Villita Assembly Building, San Antonio

Stuft Shirt Restaurant, Newport Beach, California

Paul Masson Champagne Cellers, Saratoga, California

Wamsutter Motel, Wamsutter, Wyoming

Meanwhile, at Northern California's venerable "Trees of Mystery" tourist trap, I found a more modern postcard that spectacularly fails to capture the beauty, the majesty, or even the essential verticality of the mighty redwoods:

Once again, I had to keep my eye on Mrs. 5000 around the concrete megasculpture. She's a sucker for a man with an axe.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In which michael5000 responds to a tag

[But don't forget, we're still looking for suggestions for the reading list of non-fiction books!]

In a sure sign that L&TM5K is maturing into an established blog, despite its frequent and wildly unpopular college football content, I have received my first "tag." It came from regular commenter fingerstothebone, and it assigned me to list "the top 10 reasons why you like yourself."

It turns out that this is kind of hard to do. It's a lot easier -- I hope this isn't just me -- to come up with reasons you don't like yourself. And, there's a powerful urge to qualify the hell out of anything positive you do say about yourself.

Fortunately, I had the endless ennui of the company picnic to work with yesterday, which gave me plenty of time to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and prepare the following upbeat list of great things about me, michael5000. (Those of you who know me personally, feel free to comment about how many are actually accurate. But try not to, like, shatter me.)

1. I laugh a lot. Life's short.

2. I am immune to road rage. There's construction? Well, they have to fix the road sometime. You did something stupid? Hell, I screw up often enough too. You're a jerk? Well, that's going to cause you more trouble than it does me, in the long run. Why get worked up?

3. I can, and do, run fairly long distances. Slow and steady turns out not to win the race after all, but since winning the race turns out to be not such a big deal, it's all good.

4. I didn't want to have children, so I didn't. If resisting societal pressure was an Olympic event...

5. I'm creative. I like making things, and I usually like the things I make.

6. I pretty much live according to my principles, but I don't make a fuss about it. Nope.

7. I'm pretty friendly. Not in-your-face, howdy-stranger friendly. I'm actually really shy. But I am basically kind, positive, supportive, and interested in what you have to say.

8. Though I am an aging dog, yet behold! An occasional new trick! I try to mix things up.

9. Despite a lack of musical training, knowledge, or especially talent, I can still put together quirky little songs that are more or less listenable. I think. Maybe. Try this one. Or this one.

10. ChuckDaddy2000 once said that "michael5000 is the only person I know who, the more he drinks, the better he gets." He might have meant that I'm kind of dull when I'm sober, or he might think I have a drinking problem. I choose to believe he meant that I know how to relax and have a good time.

Fingerstothebone's own responses, incidentally -- including her claim to have great legs, which I therefore wasn't able to use myself for fear of being thought derivative -- are spread out over three posts, starting here.

Oh! I almost forgot! I am entitled to tag others now! Hmmm.... I choose:

  • ChuckDaddy
  • MyDogIsChelsea
  • KickKarinintheButt. Um, I mean, KickintheButtKarin.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Exciting Victory for the Ducks

[If you haven't weighed in on non-fiction books yet, go thisaway.]

The football season got off to a terrific start this week as Nike co-founder Phil Knight donated $100,000,000 to the University of Oregon athletic department, presumably in big Scrooge McDuck bags of lucre with little dollar signs stenciled on the sides. Rumor has it that the University will also continue to function as an academic institution in some capacity.

But you know, all kidding aside, all of that money will not buy success on the gridiron next month. No siree, that's not how the game works. In fact it will take at least a year, maybe even two or three, for all of that money to buy success on the gridiron. In the meantime we will have to, if I may paraphrase the always loveable Donald Rumsfeld, go to war with the football team we have.

The big question that I know all good L&TM5K readers are asking themselves is, what kind of football team do we have? Interestingly, no one seems to have a clue. I recently examined three different magazines with titles like College Football Preview and Exploited Young Athlete Forecaster 2007 -- well, actually more like the former than the later -- and found that they variously predicted that the Ducks would finish second, sixth, and seventh in the Pac-10. [note for the footballphobic: the Pac-10 has 10 teams. Hence the name.] That's a huge range of possibilities. I bought the first one.

It all starts next week, and I am sure that you are as excited as I am. What fun we'll have.


Hmmm, we haven't had a Song of the Day for a while. "Concrete" by Jim's Big Ego hit me with a totally, like, transcendent moment on my evening run last night, all pure pop exhuberance on a beautiful August day. Nice. Give it a listen, maybe you'll like it too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Decemberists Tale

[Wait! Wait! Don't forget to vote for your favorite non-fiction books! The action is here.]

At the recent Family5000 Reunion, Niece #2 went out shopping and came back with a copy of the concert video The Decemberists: A Practical Handbook.

And really, that's a pretty good story right there. Because YOUR nieces probably listen to, what? The latest crippy-crap Brittney Spears clone that Central Marketing has mandated as this year's teen sensation? Or, if you're lucky, thug hiphop lite? Well, MY neices listen to the Decemberists. Envy me.

Anyway: Nieces #1-3 troop off to screen the video. But then, Niece #1 reappears almost immediately to tell me I better come take a look at this. So I follow her upstairs.

In the screening room, my brother-in-law solemnly restarts the video.

I see the following:

  • The opening shot: the Roseland Theater's sign reflected in a mud puddle.
  • The second shot: the Roseland Theater sign, right side up.
  • The third shot: A caption reading "The Roseland Theater, Portland, Oregon, November 2005"

  • And then, the surprising fourth shot: Myself and Mrs. 5000.

Granted, we are seen at the beginning of a pan across the crowd. We are two people among many. But, we are easily the most prominent people in the shot. We are visible for litterally seconds.

Now, it must be said that several times during the reunion, my nieces witnessed me doing things that were not only solidly adult, but arguably quite square. For example, I was visibly excited to receive a water filtration system as a birthday gift. I demonstrated concern about safety on several occasions. I may have discussed property values. I occasionally used the word "square."

Given this kind of thing, and yet that one always hopes for some quirky-but-maybe-kind-of-cool-uncle cred with the nieces, it certainly can't hurt to show up in their rock videos.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Inform My Reading List! Episode IV

[Results for the Seriously Old Book voting are here.]

That's right, it's time for the penultimate episode of the five-part Inform My Reading List series! This week, you may remember, we are looking for:

Non-Fiction Books

It's a very broad category, and the situation is complicated by my inability to give much in the way of starter suggestions. Friends, I'm afraid that Michael5000 doesn't read much non-fiction. So, your job is to let me know what I'm missing. (Tip for the strategically inclined: Whoever get their votes in first will probably shape the debate. If there's a debate.)

Two lists that might help get the juices flowing:

OK, over to you! Hit that comment button once more, and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Inform My Reading List! The Seriously Old Books

Hellllloooooo you lovely Gentle Readers!! I am back from my vacation to the Family5000 Compound in beautiful Bandon, Oregon, and oh my do we have a lot of blogging to catch up on. In the next few days, you will be dazzled by posts on such favorite L&TM5K topics as Boring Postcards, Maps, the Media, and the Decemberists. There will also be a College Football one that you can just skim.

But before all that, tonight, we have unresolved business to take care of, do we not? Yes! It's time for some...

Seriously Old Books

Do I have the smartest blog readership, or what? I floated Sun-Tzu's the Art of War, token favorite classic of unimaginitive corporate grunts everywhere, out there like so much fresh chum. But no -- L&TM5K sharks go for a fresher kind of prey. Most impressive.

For the record, here were my votes

1) Beowulf; 2) Herotidus, Histories; 3) the Iliad; 4) Marcus Aurelius, Meditations; 5) The Bhagavad Gita; 6) The Golden Ass; 7) Dream of the Red Chamber

And Now:

The Winners!

1. The Odyssy (8 1/2)
2. The Iliad (6)
3. Beowulf (5)
4. Chaucer, Cantebury Tales (4 1/2)
5. The Epic of Gilgamesh (4)
5. The Golden Ass (4)


Friday, August 17, 2007

Boring! Boring! Boring!

On the highly excellent suggestion of My Dog Is Chelsea, I am happy to report that I have obtained a Boring, Boring postcard.

In addition to being classically boring according to my preliminary theory of postcard boringness -- it shows an "attraction" that no one would ever actually want to visit, the attraction lacks visual interest, the attraction is something that is common as dirt -- this postcard is from the unfortunately named town of Boring, Oregon. So here it is, ladies and gentleman -- arguably the most Boring postcard in the world.

- - - -

Meanwhile, just because I am on vacation, please do not think that I have been slacking on The Reading List. This cartoon from the first book I ever owned, Peanuts Treasury, says it all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Five Things I Like About George W. Bush

[Wait! Wait! Don't forget to cast your votes for Seriously Old Books!]

Five things I like about George W. Bush. Now, I know what you're probably thinking. But the man is a human being, and there are really very few people who do not have plenty of redeeming qualities. And I must say, having decided to write this post, it didn't take me more than a couple of hours to come up with five things that I respect and admire about my country's First Citizen and Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush.

So here we are -- five things that I quite sincerely appreciate about the President.

1. The President does not appear to be a racist. At the outset of his first term, I was impressed with the love he was giving Mexico, the important and too often stupidly maligned country on our southern border. After the attacks of September 2001, I thought he displayed excellent leadership in discouraging and decrying "revenge" attacks against American Muslims and people who looked like they might be Muslims. When a company from Dubai was contracted to manage certain U.S. port operations, it was the Democrats fanning grotesque anti-Arab sentiment; the President took a relatively sane line.

2. The President is, frankly, a stud. I respect amateur athletes. An avid mountain biker and runner, Bush has remained in remarkably good shape throughout his presidency. He has not only run in marathons, but acquited himself quite well in them. His best time of about 3 hours, 45 minutes compares extremely favorably with this (much younger) blogger's best time of about 5 hours, 25 minutes. Bravo, Mr. Bush!

3. The President appointed Colin Powell as his first Secretary of State. It was a good choice. The presence of Mr. Powell in that position injected some diversity of style and opinion into the administration, and mitigated some courses of action that would have been worse if he wasn't around. It is a shame that he wasn't able to remain on the team.

4. The President's wife was courteous to my parents. When my mom was a guest at the White House a few years back -- she had been selected to create an ornament for the White House Christmas tree -- she and my dad were impressed with Laura Bush's presence and courtesy during their 20 second photo op. Someone being nice to my parents scores points with me, naturally.

5. The President takes lots of vacations. He should not be criticized for this. There is a story in the Sufi tradition of Islam about an arrogant king who summons a Murid, a kind of wandering holy man. The king asks this question: "What is more excellent than prayer?" The Murid looks about him at the king's luxury and the poverty of the common people, and replies: "More excellent than prayer, lord, is for you to sleep until mid-day, that for this time you will spare mankind your influence."

With this is mind, Michael5000 will be officially on vacation for a few days himself. But I'll be checking in.

Inform My Reading List! Episode III

[The Results of the Modern Novel Voting are here.]

This Week: Seriously Old Books

What, you ask, is a "Seriously Old Book"? Well I'll tell you. A seriously old book is defined as a book written before the 1605 publication of Don Quixote.

We will for present purposes exclude the Bible or parts thereof. (I've got a whole other blog going on the project of reading the Bible, you know.)

We will also exclude the works of Shakespeare as being not far enough off the beaten track, if you follow me. In fact, we're going to exclude all works written for the Elizabethan stage, in return for which I promise Jennifer that I will read something by Fletcher before spring returns.

You can vote for as many as you like. And yet, why do I suspect the voting will be a little more low-key this time?

Possible Options:

  • Beowulf (Heaney Translation)
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • Dante, The Divine Comedy
  • Paradise Lost
  • the Aeneid
  • the Decameron
  • ye Cantebury Tales
  • Herotidus, Histories
  • Plato, Republic
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Sun-Tsu, the Art of War
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • St. Augustine, Confessions
  • Montaigne, Essays
  • The Upanishads
  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • The Tale of Genji
  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
  • Lucius Apuleius, The Golden Ass
  • Ovid, Metamorpheses
  • Tacitus, Annals
  • The Book of the Dead
  • Journey to the West
All right! You know what to do! Hit that comment button and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Inform My Reading List! The Modern Novels

The voting for modern novels is now closed!! I accounted for late entries from Sarah and Shanthala, and then cast fourteen votes myself.

These were my picks:

1) Money; 2) Bridge on the Drina; 3) The Master and Margarita; 4) Possession; 5) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; 6) the Tin Drum; 7) The End of the Affair; 8) The Unconsoled; 9) Kafka on the Shore; 10) Lolita; 11) A House for Mr. Biswas; 12) The Financial Expert; 13) Housekeeping; 14) Midnight's Children.

And Now:

The Winners!

1. Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (6)
2. Pamuk, My Name is Red (5)
3. Robinson, Housekeeping (4)
3. Updike, the other Rabbit books after Rabbit, Run (4)
5. Andric, Bridge on the Drina (3)
5. DeWitt, The Last Samurai (3)
5. Byatt, Possession (3)
5. Greene, The End of the Affair (3)
5. Nabakov, Lolita (3)
5. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (3)
5. Blume, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (3)
5. Greene, The Quiet American (3)
5. Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (3)
5. Moore/Gibbons, Watchmen (3)
5. Nabakov, Pnin (3)
5. Smiley, A Thousand Acres (3)
5. Stegner, Angle of Repose (3)
5. Ishiguro, The Unconsoled (3)

Have I mentioned, you gentle readers are just awesome for playing along? You've made a simple blogger very happy.

Anybody for some SERIOUSLY OLD BOOKS?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Welcome to the Rewards You Deserve

I've been very positive about things lately in the pages of this online journal. This can't be good for readership. Therefore let us commence with some bitching and moaning, as L&TM5K brings you:

Michael5000's Three Pet Peeves of Commercial-Speak

1. The startup screen on my computer that says "Welcome to Microsoft."

No, no, computer. You have this relationship all wrong. I own you. You are not sentient, and even if you did I am not in any way your guest. You are, at most, MY guest. You have no grounds to wish me welcome.

No, no, Microsoft Corporation. You, too, have this relationship all wrong. I have done you the favor of purchasing your product. I might, if I was in a better mood, politely wish you a welcome to the circuitry of my computer. You, however, should not be wishing me welcome to my own computer's operating system. I own that, too. I paid for it.

2. Advertisements that tell me what I "deserve."
Several times a day, a corporation informs me that I "deserve" their product. This pisses me off. First of all, how the hell do they know what ~I~ deserve? For all they know, I just finished a vigorous rampage of axe-happy bloodshed through an elementary school before picking up this magazine, or before downloading this website. Do I then "deserve" a frosty refreshing cool beverage? Arguably not.

Secondly, my understanding of the word "deserve" is that it means I have a right to the thing under discussion. Fine. Then give it to me. If, on the other hand, you are asking me to pay you for a thing that I deserve, are you not in essence holding my property for ransom? You damn thief!

3. The "Rewards" Program.

A reward is something you are given in recognition of your meritorious performance or service, right? You get a reward because, well, ya done good. You might get a reward for your bowling prowess, or for exceeding your sales goals, or for bringing a wanted man in alive. That's what a reward is.

By contrast, spending money on a credit card is not a meritorious act. Flying consistently on a single airline does not demonstrate your worth or ability. So, calling the premiums that are offered for this kind of consumer behavior "rewards" -- aside from being a transparent, smarmy, and condescending means of giving the customer some false flattery -- is basically inaccurate. They aren't rewards. They are premiums.

But really, most commercial language is kind of dumb. What elevates "rewards" to the level of a pet peeve is its connotation of moral rightness: because you spent money, you are good and should be rewarded. Thinking about consumerism this way probably doesn't really cheapen basic morality. People don't really seem to think that running up a credit card in order to "earn" "rewards" is the soul of virtue.

But it doesn't help, either.

By the Way....

It's my birthday. Yes. Thank you.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Newest Internet-Based Diversion (August 2007 edition)

[Yes, there's still time to vote for your favorite modern novels! Go here for that sort of thing!]

From modern novels, to college football, and now to todays topic: sending postcards to strangers. [Note to Self: Is it possible blog lacks thematic cohesion? Nah....]

It all started with a comment from renowned book artist, indomitable scourge of garden pests, and frequent L&TM5K commenter fingerstothebone:

I can't believe I didn't remember to tell you this, but I just received a pretty boring postcard from Finland which reminded me -- you should sign up for to spread boring postcards all over the world, and to receive boring postcards from all over the world.

And she's so damn right! I should sign up! is tailor-made for me, combining as it does so many of my key enthusiasms:

  1. Postcards.

  2. Learning about new places.

  3. Meeting new people.

  4. Wasting time online.

  5. Meticulously keeping track of things that aren't really very important.

  6. Shamelessly trying to get people to read this blog.

The idea is, you sign up as a member and start sending postcards to other members. As they receive your postcards, you go to the top of the queue and other members send postcards to you. How cool is that? [Don't answer that. The proper answer is "very cool."]

Although the well-designed members map (above) shows a pretty global group of people, with predictable clusters where internet use is prevalent (check out Malaysia!), my first five postcards are all going to Europe: Sweden, Finland, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

Anyway, I think that this is a very cool (albeit somewhat ridiculous, which never bothers me) concept, and will be participating enthusiastically. And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

College Football 2007: Pre-Season Analysis

[If you are here to talk modern novels, go here. Then you can come back and read this incisive, hard-hitting analysis of the coming college football season.]

All right, football fans! Here's who I like for 2007!

But first, I should clarify that by "who I like" I don't mean "who I think will be successful." No. I am a Ducks fan. We know better than to predict. We simply accept the team we end up with: occasionally brilliant, sometimes awful, frequently frustrating, always entertaining.

Inside the Pac-10
  1. The Oregon Ducks. That's, like, axiomatic.
    Go Ducks!!

  2. The Oregon State Beavers. I'm a regionalist, and not much for traditional rivalries. I want to see the home-state lads do well.

  3. The Washington Huskies. More regionalism. Plus, Seattle is a groovy town. Plus, I suspect that it annoys the UW fans I know that I am generally supportive of their team, and that's fun.

  4. The Washington State Cougers. Though Pullman could not really be called "a groovy town."

  5. The Stanford Cardinal. Those guys are book-smart, too. I respect that.

  6. The California Bears. I like Cal because they are from, you know, Berkeley. Michael5000 is a hippy at heart.

  7. The USC Trojans. You have to admire a machine that works well. Really, really, really well.

  8. The U.C.L.A. Bruins. "U.C.L.A." "U.C.L.A." It just sounds good.

  9. The Arizona Wildcats. I pay grudging respect to the school where Mrs.5000 got her graduate degree. Plus, they are often easy to beat.

  10. The Arizona State Sun Devils, I have no use for. Sorry.

Outside the Pac-10

  • I have determined to like Oklahoma this year. This is partly to placate occasional L&TM5K commenter DrSchnell, partly in salute to the Oklahoma blogging contigent -- you guys are O.K.!!! -- and mostly because I have found the OU/U of O mini-rivalry of the past few years highly amusing. So I'm rooting for the Sooners, except of course when they play my regional favorite K-State. When they play my alma mater, Kansas, about which I have highly ambiguous feelings, I will hope for a tie. When they play Nebraska or Texas, I'll hope they not only win but run up a humiliating margin of victory.

  • I will continue my policy of rooting against every team in the SEC and the ACC. The exception is Auburn, which has a cool name.

  • Huge schools like Ohio State and Michigan are just boring. As is Notre Dame. I will root against them.

  • I will root for Purdue, because they are called the "Boilermakers," and Syracuse, because they are called the "Orangemen."

  • Who couldn't be in love with plucky Boise State after last year's season? Almost nobody!

  • Oh, and finally, I'm going to try to pay attention to Division I-AA Portland State this year. Not a bad team, interesting new coach, and I could in theory ride my bike 15 minutes and watch a quality football game for a pittance. With several dozen other fans. But still.

How about you, gentle reader? Who are you rooting for this year?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Inform My Reading List! Episode II

[The Results of the Classic Novel Voting are here.]

This Week: Modern (1950-present) Novels

OK, on to the poorly-defined and poorly-named category of Modern Novels! With this category, the process gets a little murkier. With books this recent, any notion of which books are The Great Books (problematic as such notions are, yadda yadda yadda) is still very much in flux. So, anything goes. This makes trouble, because I can't really drum up anything like a complete ballot for you. It would be enormous.

So Here's How We'll Roll

I'm starting things off with a basically random list of novels that I haven't read from the last sixty years. You aren't limited to these. As you, the voters, suggest additional titles, I'll add them to the list. You can vote for as many as you like, or you can restrict yourself to three favorites and give them two votes apiece. Knock yourself out, and thanks for playing.

Possible Options: (Remember, you are not limited to these)
  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1 votes)
  • Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina (2)
  • Amis, M., Money
  • Andric, Bridge on the Drina (2)
  • Atwood, Surfacing (1)
  • Barry, Cruddy (1)
  • Basu, Opium Clerk (1)
  • Bellow, Herzog (1)
  • Blume, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (3)
  • Blume, Then Again, Maybe I Won't (1)
  • Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (4)
  • Byatt, Possession (1)
  • Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1)
  • Caudwell, Maybe Thus Was Adonus Murdered (1)
  • Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
  • Carey, Jack Maggs (1)
  • Chandler, The Long Goodbye (2)
  • Connell, Mrs. Bridge (1)
  • Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1)
  • DeLillo, Underworld (1)
  • DeWitt, The Last Samurai (2)
  • Eggers, You Shall Know Our Velocity (1/2)
  • Ellroy, American Tabloid (1)
  • Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (1/2)
  • Fforde, The Eyre Affair (2)
  • Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (1)
  • Ghosh, Hungry Tide (1)
  • Grass, the Tin Drum (1)
  • Greene, The End of the Affair (2)
  • Greene, The Heart of the Matter (1)
  • Greene, Our Man in Havana (2)
  • Greene, The Quiet American (3)
  • Hoban, Ridley Walker (1)
  • Hosseini, The Kite Runner (1)
  • Irving, The Cider House Rules (1)
  • Ishiguro, The Unconsoled (2)
  • Kemal, Memed, My Hawk (1)
  • Keroac, On the Road (2 1/2)
  • Krauss, The History of Love (1)
  • Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (2)
  • Lessing, The Golden Notebook (1)
  • Mahfouz, The Cairo Trilogy (1)
  • Marquez, Autumn of the Patriarch (3)
  • McCarthy, Blood Meridian (2)
  • McEwan, Atonement (1)
  • Miller, Tropic of Cancer
  • Moore, Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (1)
  • Moore/Gibbons, Watchmen (3)
  • Morrison, Song of Solomon (2)
  • Morrison, Sula (2)
  • Munro, The Beggar Maid (1)
  • Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (1/2)
  • Nabakov, Despair (1)
  • Nabakov, Lolita (2)
  • Nabakov, Pnin (3)
  • Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (1)
  • Naipaul, Bend in the River (1)
  • Naipaul, Suffrage of Elvira (1)
  • Narayan, The Financial Expert
  • Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys (1)
  • Oates, Marya (1)
  • Ondaatje, The English Patient (1)
  • Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion (1)
  • Pamuk, My Name is Red (4)
  • Percy, The Moviegoer (1)
  • Pynchon, Crying of Lot 49 (2)
  • Robinson, Housekeeping (3)
  • Roth, American Pastoral (1)
  • Roth, Goodbye Columbus (1)
  • Roy, The God of Small Things (2)
  • Rushdie, Midnight's Children
  • Saramago, The Double (1)
  • Sebold, The Lovely Bones (1)
  • Seth, A Suitable Boy
  • Smiley, A Thousand Acres (3)
  • Stegner, Angle of Repose (3)
  • Swift, Waterland (2)
  • Tan, The Joy Luck Club (1 1/2)
  • Tutuola, The Palm-Wife Drinkard (1)
  • Updike, the other Rabbit books after Rabbit, Run (3)
  • Wilson, A Bottle In the Smoke (1)
  • Yolin, The Devil's Arithmetic (1)
  • Yoshimoto, Kitchen (1)

Suggested Books that Michael5000 has already read, so don't waste your vote!

  • Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
  • Bechdel, Fun Home
  • Calvino, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler
  • Capote, In Cold Blood
  • Eggers, A Heartbreaking blah blah blah
  • Eugenides, Middlesex
  • Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Miller, A Canticle for Liebowitz
  • Morrison, Beloved
  • Murakami, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  • O'Brien, The Things They Carried
  • Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
  • Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
All right! Hit that comment button and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Inform My Reading List! The Classic Novels

The voting for classic novels is now closed!!

Except for me. I've picked out the twelve from the list that I would have picked if I was one of those boring people who choose their own books. Here they are:

1) Pere Goriot; 2) Labyrinths; 3) Don Quixote; 4) the Big Sleep; 5) Madame Bovary; 6) Dead Souls; 7) Ulysses; 8) the Trial; 9) Death in Venice; 10) Remembrance of Things Past; 11) Street of Crocodiles; 12) Candide.
Add me and a few Monday stragglers to the votes that have already been counted, and you get:

The Winners!

1. The Brothers Karamazov, 9 1/2 points.
2. Huckleberry Finn, 9 points.
2. Candide, 9 points.
4. The Big Sleep, 8 points.
5. To the Lighthouse, 7 points.
6. The Stranger, 5 points.
6. The Process, 5 points.
6. Don Quixote, 5 points.
6. Ulysses, 5 points.
10. Crime and Punishment, 4 1/2 points.
10. Cry, the Beloved Country, 4 1/2 points.
10. The Scarlet Letter, 4 1/2 points.

What Now?

I will start the first book, probably the Brothers Karamazov, this weekend. And I'll continue reading books off of the list (including these 12 and the winners from the other categories), in more or less random order, until I run out. I will do little book reviews on this blog for your heckling and second-guessing pleasure.

Note that I do not intend to burn straight through these without interuption. I'll always read at least one book of trashier pedegree between Book List books. So, I figure we're looking at two to three years worth of reading.

Many thanks to everybody who voted for the classic novels! Now, let's get cracking on the modern novels!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Clown Poppies

[Still time to vote for your favorite classic novels! The ballot is two posts down. Stand by for modern novels starting Tuesday.]

Some pictures of my beloved clown poppies were recently featured over at My Dog is Chelsea, so I thought I would inflict a few on y'all here as well.

Here's the deal with clown poppies: they're ephemeral.

They generally bloom in the morning. Oftentimes, they start to fall apart by the early evening. By the next day, there is nothing left except possibly a few red petals on the ground.

I can usually get six or seven plants to grow a year. They bloom for about a week, around the spring solstace, and then they're gone.

Hard not to see some metaphorical potential in all this.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Brazzaville versus Burgerville

[if you are here about the book list thing, go here and vote! Then come back and read this one; it's very droll.]

Do you ever do that thing where you see or hear one word with your eyes or ears, but a different word goes into your head? Sure you do, everybody does. I'm just not articulating it very well.

(In fact, there should be a word for this phenomenon. I encourage you to suggest a word for it in the comments.)

Anyway, whenever I see a sign for local burger joint "Burgerville," my brain thinks "Brazzaville." I know. I'm a freak. But whatever. I have created and will now share with you this:

Faceoff: Brazzaville versus Burgerville

The Basics:

Brazzaville: Capital city of the Republic of Congo, population 1.5 million.
Burgerville: Chain of fast food restaurants in Oregon and Southwest Washington, with 43 stores.

Founded by:

Brazzaville: The French Explorer Pierre Savoignan de Brazza, in 1880.
Burgerville: Entrepreneur George Propstra, in 1961.


Brazzaville: “Unite' - Travail – Progress.”
Burgerville: “Choose fresh, local, sustainable; choose Burgerville.”

Under the Shadow of:

Brazzaville: Congo/Zaire’s capital Kinshasa, five times as large and directly across the Congo River.
Burgerville: McDonalds, Burger King, and other national fast food chains.

The French Connection:

Brazzaville: Capital of French Equatorial Africa until independence in 1960.
Burgerville: Sweet Potato and Yukon Gold French Fries are always big sellers.


Nabemba Tower, tallest skyscraper in Central Africa.
Burgerville: “Last Burgerville for 24,700 Miles!” billboards.

Natural Resource Use:

Brazzaville: Major port for natural resources of the Congo Basin, including rubber, timber, and agricultural products.
Burgerville: Makes major fuss about using ingredients from the Pacific Northwest region, including beef, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

Recent Problems:

Brazzaville: Unrest in the 1990s caused thousands of civilian deaths and sent refugees streaming out of the city.
Burgerville: Planned expansions into Central Oregon and Seattle markets have apparently been postponed.


Brazzaville: Underdeveloped social and physical infrastructure; unemployment; poverty.
Burgerville: Annoying oldies music; half-hearted 50s diner theme.


Brazzaville: Congo's economic prospects remain largely dependent on the country's ability to establish political stability and democratic rule.
Burgerville: Whether Burgerville's regional popularity will allow it to compete against much larger competitors, with their buying power and economies of scale, only the future can tell.

There. I hope that helped.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Inform My Reading List! Episode I

I'm always trying to live up to my overeducation. Recently, totally of my own volition and with no midterms hanging over me or anything, I actually read some books about history and philosophy and stuff. Some of them didn't even have pictures. It's been great. Not only does this kind of thing make me feel all erudite and shit [gratuitous profanity included for blog-rating purposes, also for humorous bathetic effect], but it helps me keep up with Mrs. 5000 and her fancy-schmancy Ivy League book-larnin'.

So, you ask, what comes next in my program of self-insmartification?

Here's the plan. You, the L&TM5K readers, will help me pick my reading list for the next year or so. This reading list will consist of 10-12 Classic (Pre-1950) Novels, 10-15 Modern (1950-present) Novels, 4 or 5 Seriously Old Books, 8 or 9 books of Serious Non-Fiction, and just to round things out, 3 or 4 Fantasy/Sci Fi epics.

This Week: Classic (Pre-1950) Novels

(OK, sure, "Pre-1950" is a sketchy category. Get over it.) My methodology for this section was to look at a bunch of books with titles like Great Books You Should Have Already Read, Stupid, and to list out old novels that kept reappearing. (I haven't listed books that I've already read.)

Your Mission

Hit that comments link and Vote! Let me know which of the following books are (or aren't) worth reading. And, if you've got a few minutes on your hand, tell me why you think so. (And yeah, you can definitely suggest titles that aren't on the list if you want.) Oh, then tell your most bookish friends to come do the same.

(Don't read the old stuff? No problem! Come on back next week for the modern novels!)

The Titles
  • Balzac, Pere Goriot
  • Borges, Labyrinths
  • Camus, the Stranger
  • Cervantes, Don Quixote
  • Chandler, the Big Sleep
  • Clark, the Ox-Box Incident
  • Crane, Red Badge of Courage
  • Dickens, Great Expectations
  • Dos Passos, U.S.A. Trilogy
  • Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov
  • Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom!
  • Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (sez Blythe)
  • Faulkner, Sound and the Fury
  • Fielding, Tom Jones
  • Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  • Goethe, Faust
  • Gogol, Dead Souls
  • Hammett, the Maltese Falcon
  • Hardy, Mayor of Castorbridge
  • Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Hawthorne, the Scarlet Letter
  • James, Portrait of a Lady
  • James, er, rather: Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • James, the Ambassadors
  • Joyce, Ulysses
  • Kafka, the Trial
  • Lawrence, Women in Love
  • Mann, Buddenbrooks
  • Mann, Death in Venice
  • Mann, the Magic Mountain
  • Maugham, the Razor’s Edge
  • Paton, Cry the Beloved Country (sez Mrs. 5000)
  • Proust, whatever they are calling “Remembrance of Things Past” this year
  • Schulz, Street of Crocodiles (sez Mrs. 5000)
  • Stendhal, the Red and the Black
  • Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • Twain, Huck Finn
  • Twain, Tom Sawyer
  • Voltaire, Candide
  • Woolf, To the Lighthouse